Friday 29 April 2016

On Stage: Desert Mountain Tribe @ Paradiso

One of the bands that surprised me at the Eindhoven Psych Fest almost a year ago was the London based trio Desert Mountain Tribe. Their psychedelic and powerful music was both convincing as well as nice to watch. Now they are doing a tour in Europe in support of their first album Either That Or The Moon.

Desert Mountain Tribe at Paradiso Amsterdam, April 28 2016

That album managed to capture the same powerful rock sound and spacy hooks on its recordings. Live on stage their music manages to drag you into its hypnotic universe even more, with lots of reverb on vocals and guitars. The drums are loud and could use a bit more dynamics but all combined together it is a great mood the band put you in.

Singer and guitar player Jonty Balls already is a charismatic front man, sometimes saying a thank you or a jolly remark in the microphone that is impossible to understand with all the reverb. It doesn't really matter what he has to say, the idea is clear. With his eyes closed he's playing his spacy guitar solos, totally submerging himself into the music.

He does need to switch or tune guitars regularly, which takes the speed out of the performance a bit, but once they grow bigger and can afford a guitar tech, that problem will fix itself. Because I do think this band has plenty of potential to grow bigger as they have the right set of skills, the right attitude and most importantly great music with some killer songs. Listen to tracks like 'Feel The Light', 'Runaway' or the epic nine minute 'Interstellar' and you know what I mean. Go check them and their album out.

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Thursday 28 April 2016

On Stage: Wolfmother @ Paradiso

Australian band Wolfmother is actually an alias for Andrew Stockdale who is the only remaining original member and the driving force behind it. A few years back he shelved Wolfmother and released a solo album under his own name together with a solo tour announcement. I got tickets to his Paradiso show, but then the whole tour was cancelled and things got a little unclear for a while. Stockdale returned to his Wolfmother project but the line-up was changing a lot. The latest album Victorious shows a return to form and things seem to be well again in the Wolfmother universe. And finally they also returned to Paradiso.

Wolfmother at Paradiso Amsterdam, April 26 2016

The band has returned to the trio line-up so the stage looks quite empty. Stockdale looks a bit detached from the other two standing at the left side of the stage. He explains later on in the show that he strained his ankle and apologizes for not moving all over the stage like we're used of him. It doesn't really matter though when the skinny curly haired Australian opens his mouth to sing and we can hear his mighty rock howl. 'Victorious' opens the set and proves the band is back where it once began with Black Sabbath and Zeppelin kind of riffs and grooves.

There is often criticism for not being original and copying the famous hardrock bands too much. I think that despite the fact that they are definitely inspired by the hard rock music from the seventies, it's more than a just copy. And yes, some songs sound alike and the band doesn't use a lot of variation, but they play their music so well and with a lot of heart and conviction. Most important of all they are clearly enjoying it a lot. Stockdale may be injured but it's clear he's excited to play here tonight and is spreading joy and good vibes across the room.

Right from the start a little party breaks loose that only gets bigger when older songs and fan favourites like 'Woman' are played early in the set. The trio setup is actually great for every musician to give what they got without getting in the way of someone else. Bass player Ian Peres is working hard, playing both bass and keyboard, sometimes even at the same time. Drummer Alex Carapetis doesn't have to hold back either, knocking out the heavy grooves with great force. In the encore there's time for two more songs until of course the best Wolfmother song 'Joker & The Thief' closes the night with a bang. So it may not always be very original but boy does this feel good!

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01. Victorious
02. New Moon Rising
03. Woman
04. Apple Tree
05. The Love That You Give
06. White Unicorn
07. White Feather
08. California Queen
09. How Many Times
10. Gypsy Caravan
11. Dimension
12. The Simple Life
13. City Lights
14. Pretty Peggy
15. Pyramid
16. Colossal
17. Vagabond
18. Joker & the Thief

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Monday 25 April 2016

On Stage: Beets, Bennink, Herman, Jacobs @ Tivoli Vredenburg

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join him to go see a jazz concert with pianist Peter Beets, drummer Han Bennink, sax player Benjamin Herman and bassist Ruud Jacobs. Well if you line up these giants of course I want to see that!

Beets, Bennink, Herman, Jacobs at Tivoli Vredenburg, April 24 2016

These four musicians really don't need any introduction, all of them top notch musicians and the best jazz has to offer. Benjamin Herman of course is one of my favourite musicians and Han Bennink simply is a legendary drummer you can't see often enough. Beets explains they did a one time show once and got requests to play in this line up more often and here they are. If you put extraordinary musicians, together this doesn't always mean you automatically will get more than the sum of their parts, but in this case you get a lot more, at this Sunday afternoon concert which is a rare one for me.

Of course they have played together in some way or the other but not in this line-up with all four of them on one stage. It's a delight to watch these musicians work one another, challenge each other and have so much fun. Beets' piano play is sparkling and clear, with notes tumbling over each other. Jacobs' contrabass is groovy and glues everything together wonderfully. Herman's alto saxophone play sounds lush as always, with that classic sound and Bennink simply is out of this world with powerful and dynamic play, getting the most out of his drum kit and surroundings. He proves that the drum kit isn't the instrument, but the drummer is.

Most of all this is all that music should be about: having fun on stage and projecting that energy and pleasure on the audience. The quartet plays many compositions by Misha Mengelberg and a few other standards, sometimes discussing on stage what album it was originally on or what the actual name is. This only underlines the relaxed and unconstrained atmosphere they create today, where they seem to thrive on and everything is grooving with a lot of swing. In the end this was a great way to spend this Sunday afternoon and hopefully we can see this quartet play a lot more in the future.

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Friday 22 April 2016

On Stage: The Sore Loses @ Bitterzoet

In their home country Belgium, The Sore Losers are bringing down big houses by now, but over here they are still playing smaller venues like Bitterzoet. With a great new album Skydogs out, that is getting good reviews maybe that can change. Until then I can still get the see them in an intimate club.

The Sore Losers at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, April 20 2016

Anyone that has seen this band before, knows they give it all on stage and know how to put up a great rock show. It doesn't matter how big or small the stage, they will work it like there's no tomorrow. And with the new album they have added plenty of songs that should be able to win over any crowd. Raw and groovy rock songs influenced by Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Rolling Stones are played with great confidence. A catchy song like 'Cherry Cherry' should get anyone jumping, but the crowd is a bit mellow tonight. That's not the band's fault who are working up a sweat like always.

The band looks great on stage with active front man Jan Straetemans and guitar player Cedric Maes as the ones who run the show. Maes has great skills and is knocking out wonderful riffs and solos seemingly effortlessly. Their first album was a real blues rock album but by now they are so much more. It's still clear though where their heart is when you hear songs like 'Nightcrawler' and 'Got It Bad'. Together with older favourites like 'Girl's Gonna Break It' this band can play any crowd by now and does win everyone over by the end of the night. These guys should be on any festival this year where they will blow everyone away.

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Thursday 21 April 2016

On Stage: Drive Like Maria @ Bitterzoet

Ever since the release of their debut album Elmwood some years ago, I've been a big fan of the no nonsense rock of Drive Like Maria. Too bad these kind of bands don't get enough exposure and need to work really hard for their music. Fortunately they came by to present their new EP Creator that is the first part in a trilogy that should finally result in a full album Creator/Preserver/Destroyer next year. Time to go check out the Dutch/Belgian formation again.

Drive Like Maria at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, April 19 2016

The cosy Bitterzoet venue has filled up nicely for a night full of massive rock riffs and rolling drums, since Drive Like Maria is exactly that: a full blown rock machine that can knock out heavy rock grooves with great ease. They started out as a trio in the beginning, when singer Bjorn Awouters also minded the drums, but obviously this wasn't always practical and they had guest drummers partly fill in. Soon they found Bram van den Berg as their permanent drummer and that took their music and live shows to the next level.

You can kind of tell the older and new songs apart from each other, where the older ones sound more heavy and raw but also lack a bit of subtlety. Nothing wrong with that but the band has grown and matured and now also have found out that "less is more". In the newer songs they can restrain themselves from going full notch all the time, creating more depth in their music and building up tension. The parts where they go into overdrive now only have stronger impact. It also suits Awouters' vocals better, who doesn't have a howling rock voice, but a more warm almost soulful sound.

For example a song like 'Nighthawk' now builds up nicely into the heavy parts and still has plenty of room for Nitzan Hoffman's great guitar solos and riffs. The same goes for 'Sonny' that is a great rock song and especially for 'Tiny Terror', a long classic rock song in the style of the big rock bands from the seventies. But the older songs are still great to hear as well, where the fans raise their fist or beer in the air to rock to songs like 'I'm On A Train' and 'Black Horses'. The ever amazing 'So' closes a night that leaves you hungry for the rest of the trilogy to come.

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Wednesday 20 April 2016

On Stage: Noel Gallaghers's High Flying Birds @ HMH

Ever since Oasis quit, Noel Gallagher was the one brother who managed to start a successful solo career. Although he never was able to match it up with Oasis, and how could he, he proves to be a good songwriter on his own and I like his sound. Due to some bad luck I was not able to see him at the Best Kept Secret festival last year but fortunately he paid a visit to the Heineken Music Hall.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds at Heineken Music Hall, April 18 2016

We come in early to catch Augustines play the warm up show and see them working up a sweat to make everyone comfortable with their mix of Arcade Fire and Kings of Leon rock songs. It's pretty good what they play and they sound quite impressive come to think there's only three people on stage. The trio looks like they are enjoying it a lot and get a well deserved applause at the end.

Noel Gallagher may not get raving reviews about his music, since obviously it keeps getting weighed up against the Oasis catalogue that has so many monumental songs. But I think his solo records sound great, with a bit more pop and the use of a broader sound. A nice example is 'Everybody's On The Run' that opens the show, which may not get everyone mad right away but sets the right mood nevertheless.

Gallagher himself looks like he's in a good mood although his face doesn't always reveal this, but he's sometimes chatting with the people at the front, cracking a few jokes. More importantly he and his High Flying Birds are in great shape. The band sounds tight and his songs sound sparkling, also because of the horns section at the back. Big visuals are like a mood light for the music and are well chosen.

Many Oasis songs are scattered throughout the set which of course are great crowd pleasers, but Gallagher has never ignored his past in that big rock band. 'Champagne Supernova' is the first time tonight the crowd goes crazy. Judging from the English I can hear around me many British fans made it across the canal and create an exciting atmosphere. Halfway the set Gallagher says he will play some songs from the nineties and interestingly plays 'Sad Song' and 'D'Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?' back to back, not exactly big Oasis poppers. But it suits his own musical style, that is less about the big gestures.

This last part of the set is really heavy on Oasis tunes and we can hear only a few of his solo songs. It doesn't really matter what he's playing now, since the fans had plenty of beers and by now the venue has turned into a big pub full of happy drinking people. In the encore, 'Wonderwall' gets a more mellow arrangement and of course we go out on a high in the best possible way with 'Don't Look Back in Anger' where the whole venue explodes into a massive "And so Sally can wait". It may not be Oasis, but we get the best of both this way.

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01. Everybody's on the Run
02. Lock All the Doors
03. In the Heat of the Moment
04. Riverman
05. Talk Tonight
06. The Death of You and Me
07. You Know We Can't Go Back
08. Champagne Supernova
09. Ballad of the Mighty I
10. Sad Song
11. D'Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?
12. The Mexican
13. Half the World Away
14. Listen Up
15. If I Had a Gun...
16. Digsy's Dinner
17. The Masterplan
18. (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine
19. Wonderwall(Oasis cover)
20. AKA... What a Life!
21. Don't Look Back in Anger

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Tuesday 19 April 2016

On Stage: Vaudou Game @ Paradiso Tolhuistuin

After seeing Vaudou Game play a hot show in the woods at night at the Into The Great Wide Open festival, I was hoping for them to play my town some day soon. It took a while but finally I'm able to see them again and they brought a special guest.

Vaudou Game at Paradiso Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, April 17 2016

The band fronted by the charismatic Peter Solo are off to a slow start. Solo has a passionate but quite long introduction about "vaudou music" and the story behind the band's name. But then they start playing and the seventies style funk sound, mixed with afrobeat are taking over. It doesn't take long for the band to warm up and the temperature starts to rise, igniting the crowd. Solo has a contagious way of playing, sometimes looking concentrated but mostly with a big smile on his face.

The band are playing tight funky grooves backed up by sizzling percussion and horns. It's no secret African music and funk mix well together and Vaudou Game create an explosive blend. Solo may talk a lot in between some songs, but when an artist is so excited and passionate it is forgiven. He introduces the special guest, Roger Damawuzan also known as "James Brown from Lomé". Unmistakably do we hear the band play funky James Brown inspired tunes, where Damawuzan uses some of Brown's trademark screams but also has his own style. Positive vibes radiate from the singer who, like Solo, is smiling throughout the show.

When Solo and Damawuzan connect on stage, positivity explodes and the audience responds. By now the room has turned into a tropical dancing party and both crowd and band are having a good time. 'Pas Contente', the song where Damawuzan collaborates on, gets an extra long version to keep the party going. After a big roar the band returns for an encore and receives a well deserved long applause at the end of the set. This band is guaranteed to turn the heat up on every party just like their wonderful album Apiafo will.

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Monday 18 April 2016

On Stage: Black Mountain @ Melkweg

Last year I first met Canadian band Black Mountain at the Best Kept Secret Festival and liked their psychorock a lot. They had no record out but were celebrating the 10th anniversary of their self titled debut album. This year they did release a new album IV that sees them exploring psychedelic and stoner rock even more. Time to meet them again!

Black Mountain at Melkweg Amsterdam, April 15 2016

On every album they do have songs that are not completely on par with the rest. Epic long psychedelic jams are followed by somewhat not so interesting rock songs which in the end leave you with mixed feelings. The same goes for their concerts when there are moments in the show where they lose the momentum and your mind starts wandering. This is not the case today at the beginning of the show when they kick off with the IV's epic opening track 'Mothers of the Sun', a long jam that slowly builds off and then hits you with a killer riff. Like on the album it is followed by the rocking 'Florian Saucer Attack'.

When Black Mountain is rocking they are peeking. Big stoner grooves inspired by the mighty seventies rock bands Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin mixed with early Pink Floyd psychedelica. But again now and then the music loses its edge and it can get a bit weary. Singer Amber Webber's voice is strong and really fits the music but like I noticed last year she's not really a charismatic performer. When the band is going into the long instrumental jams she looks lost as if she doesn't knows what to do with herself. The band is in the dark for the first part of the show and has to ask for more light twice.

Stepping out of the dark, you can see they are all totally into the music. Master mind Stephen McBean is sometimes bent over his guitar with his eyes closed, playing his strong riffs or mind blowing solo's. Keyboard player Jeremy Schmidt's part is very important in the band's sound, giving their music its psychedelic edge and especially on the new songs his part seems to be more prominent. But in general I think the band are at their best when they play hard rocking or grooving songs like 'Tyrants', a blues rocker like 'Wilderness Heart' or a slowly building psychedelic long track like '(Over and Over) The Chain' that opens their encore. Of course they end their set on a high with the heavy rocking 'Don't Run Our Hearts Around' showing what makes this band so good. And if they can get over those moments where things go weary it could put them over the top.

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01. Mothers of the Sun
02. Florian Saucer Attack
03. Stormy High
04. Druganaut
05. Cemetery Breeding
06. Tyrants
07. You Can Dream
08. Line Them All Up
09. Wilderness Heart
10. Defector
11. Wucan
12. Space To Bakersfield
13. (Over and Over) The Chain
14. Don't Run Our Hearts Around

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Record Store Day 2016

For a few years in a row I got up early and queued up at the record store on Record Store Day to get my hands on those nice limited releases. But the last few years you can see that especially the bigger labels are driving up the prices and kind of put filler on so called limited releases. Smaller labels are experiencing longer production times and get in trouble with their regular releases. Therefore I don't get up early any more and just go to the stores for the bands and still will pick up some releases along the way. And that's what it really is about in the end right?

This year I rode my bike between Velvet Music and my favourite record store Concerto to see a few bands. Both stores have put together an interesting line-up and the day turns out great. Time for the pictures!

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Monday 11 April 2016

On Stage: Protomartyr @ Paradiso

The album The Agent Intellect took me by storm last year and ended up high on my list of best albums. Protomartyr play dark post-punk with intelligent lyrics that gets under your skin. So it was about time that I would go see them live.

Protomartyr at Paradiso Amsterdam, April 8 2016

A sold out small hall awaits the band from Detroit in anticipation. You can read many good things about their performances and my expectations are high. The first impression is that the band look a bit modest. Singer Joe Casey definitely isn't exactly a rock star and has been compared to a bank clerk or some kind of salesman. But looks can be deceiving and are irrelevant to this band anyway.

Casey may be the anti hero, but the longer you look at him, the more impressive his posture gets. He has one hand in his pocket and looks like he's giving a speech. Sometimes he's leaning on the mic stand almost looking bored. But at the same time he's half singing half speaking his lyrics, almost spitting them out. When he's using extra force his face changes into an awkward sight, almost looking drunk. This may not sound very appealing, in reality it is, this strange looking rock singer, surrounded by his band members that all seem to be in their own world. Bass player Scott Davidson is constantly bopping, guitar player Greg Ahee has his eyes closed a lot, playing totally in the moment, and drummer Alex Leonard keeps pounding his skins, skilfully keeping everything together.

Altogether it results in a very tight set with great speed, which has heavy sounding grooves and ringing guitar lines that form the perfect basis for Casey's vocals. He isn't much of a talker which gives the show great momentum. Every song is a winner and hits everyone with great impact, as if you get slapped in the face each time. At the end of the show there's still some time left and the band plays two more songs without leaving the stage, which would only break their momentum. In not even an hour they played seventeen songs and you know you've seem an impressive show, but somehow can't explain why. I think it's the combination of very strong songs and a great band that is shy of rock star nonsense and unnecessary frills, which results in a raw and honest sound. Seeing is believing so catch them on stage when they are around.

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01. Cowards Starve
02. I Forgive You
03. Blues Festival
04. Pontiac 87
05. I Stare at Floors
06. Scum, Rise!
07. What the Wall Said
08. The Devil in His Youth
09. Pagans
10. Feral Cats
11. Uncle Mother's
12. Dope Cloud
13. The Hermit
14. Clandestine Time
15. Why Does It Shake?
16. Ain't So Simple
17. Come & See

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Saturday 9 April 2016

On Stage: The Last Shadow Puppets @ Paradiso

It's been a while since we heard from The Last Shadow Puppets, the cooperation of blood brothers Alex Turner and Miles Kane. A lot has changed in the eight years since their first album caused quite a stir. Turner's Arctic Monkeys grew out to be one of the biggest rock bands and Miles Kane built up a successful solo career. They were hinting at a new album for quite a while and finally last week it dropped together with a tour.

The Last Shadow Puppets at Paradiso Amsterdam, April 7 2016

It is clear this project is all about having fun and blowing off steam, especially for Turner who feels the pressure of being in one of the most successful bands of the past decade. Maybe the new album Everything You've Come To Expect isn't the one everyone hoped for, but I think it's not as big as a disappointment some of the reviewers like you to believe. After the first album, which took everyone by surprise. we kind of knew what to expect, but still there's plenty to enjoy. Tonight proves this because the new songs are by no means any less than the older ones. For instance 'Aviation' sounds wonderful live with the string section at the side of the stage. That string section makes all the difference any way, making the songs sound very alive and organic.

'Bad Habits' is a great rocking song with a very contagious groove. Kane can show his rock star poses and skills here and is looking very pleased tonight. He's laughing all night long while Turner is showing his best Elvis face. It's a delight seeing those two guys on stage together. Boys will be boys and Kane and Turner look like two rascals (haha) looking for trouble, exchanging smiles and naughty looks. Turner excels in the slower songs with his brilliant lazy singing style, playing the ultimate crooner.

The two boys brought a great sounding band with them besides the string section and knock everyone off their feet tonight with a lively, inspired and sexy show. It's no wonder everyone is begging for more after the regular set which consists of almost the whole new album and most of the first one, so the lads return for a wonderful version of The Beatles' 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)'. Who expected that? A lush version of 'Standing Next To Me' closes the night. Of course The Last Shadow Puppets are a bit tongue in cheek and if you take them too serious it doesn't work. But they always make sure it doesn't get cheesy and of course with these amazing musicians and a world class song writer like Alex Turner they meet every expectation and more.

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01. Calm Like You
02. The Age Of The Understatement
03. She Does the Woods
04. Aviation
05. Separate And Ever Deadly
06. Used to Be My Girl
07. The Element of Surprise
08. The Dream Synopsis
09. My Mistakes Were Made For You
10. Only The Truth
11. Bad Habits
12. Dracula Teeth
13. Everything You've Come to Expect
14. Meeting Place
15. Sweet Dreams, TN
16. In My Room
17. I Want You (She's So Heavy) (The Beatles cover)
18. Miracle Aligner
19. Standing Next To Me

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Saturday 2 April 2016

On Stage: At The Drive-In

I have mixed feelings abound band reunions because you never know what the actual reason is that brought them back together. Years have passed, time has changed and sometimes that does bad things to a band. Especially for intense bands like At The Drive-In that could lose that youthful energy which then leaves nothing but a pale copy of what they once were. Guitar player Jim Ward, one of the founding members, quit the band only days before the start of this tour, which could be a bad sign. But this is At The Drive-In, a band I never saw play live and so I was not going to skip this opportunity.

At The Drive-In at Melkweg Amsterdam, March 31 2016

Mexican band Le Butcherettes are the ones to warm us up, something they did for The Mars Volta and Antemasque in the past. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez used to be part of the band and is still producing their records, so he likes to take them on tour. They actually do a good job, especially when Teri Gender Bender picks up the guitar and looks like PJ Harvey on acid.

It's clear At The Drive-In's fans have aged together with the band who are greeted with a loud roar when they take the stage. Right away it´s clear I was worried for nothing, since the band is bursting with energy and looks sharp and focused. The songs sound intense and fierce, exactly like they should. Jim Ward's fellow member of Sparta, Keeley Davis, replaces him and is doing a great job. Singer Cedric Bixler's high voice is strong and his vocals are powerful.

Most of the set is from their epic last album Relationship of Command and those songs still sound amazing even after over fifteen years. Like on the album 'Arcarsenal' and 'Pattern Against User' are opening the set while the heartfelt 'Invalid Litter Dept' halfway still hasn't lost its fire. It's good to see At The Drive-In found the right spirit again to make this reunion worthwhile. There's no encore which would only be an unneeded interruption of the show. So of course 'One Armed Scissor' closes the night and everyone screams "cut away" at the top of their lungs with the band.

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01. Arcarsenal
02. Pattern Against User
03. Sleepwalk Capsules
04. 300 MHz
05. Proxima Centauri
06. Lopsided
07. Invalid Litter Dept.
08. Enfilade
09. Ursa Minor
10. Cosmonaut
11. Quarantined
12. Catacombs
13. Napoleon Solo
14. One Armed Scissor

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